Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Photo editing Step by Step! How I prepare a photo for publication.

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At the Monster Dash 5K in Marshfield, MA (October 27, 2013)

Many of you have asked how I take race photos that "look just right."
I have replied that it's a rare photo that looks just right when I snap it.

I put a lot of work into each photo, before you ever see it.
There are four major steps:

1)  The most important step is winnowing down the hundreds or thousands of
raw photos to select a few that really capture a moment worth sharing.

2)  Then I crop the photo, to make the element(s) of interest stand out.

3)  If necessary, I remove any distractions.

4)  Finally I adjust the contrast, highlights, shadows, and color balance.

Of course, those are just words!
So here are a few pictures, to help you visualize the process.

Take a look at the photo at the top of this post.
It's not the photo I snapped with my camera!

Here's how that photo came to be:

As I stood with other runners at the start line of the Monster Dash 5K
in Marshfield, MA, I snapped many photos of the race starter.

(If I had an SLR, and could ask the race starter to wait a minute or two,
I could have zoomed in and gotten a really great photo of her.

But of course she wouldn't delay the race for me!  So I just took a quick series of
photos with my point-and-shoot, while I readied my legs and lungs to run.)

After the race, I reviewed my photos of the race starter, 
and decided that this one was the best:

So that was step 1: Selecting a candidate photo.

But the photo above is not ready for publication.  
It has nothing to draw your eye.  No subject worthy of interest.

(Unless you want a photo of power lines.  Those draw the eye quite nicely here!)

So I cropped it.  That gave me this image:

That was step 2: Cropping the photo.

It gave me an image where the subject is prominent, and draws you into the image.

But it's still not ready for publication!

Your eye is not drawn solely to the starter, and to her megaphone.
There are distractions!  
A pile of granite blocks.  A woman sitting on those blocks.  A discarded ladder.

So I removed those distractions, using a photo editor.
Then I adjusted the contrast, highlights, shadows, and color balance.

That gave me this image:

No more distractions!
The contrast is sharper.  The earth is darker.

You eye is drawn to that megaphone,
and it's quite clear that this woman is speaking directly to YOU.

Just to be clear: I am not saying that this is a great picture.

Merely that it captures a moment, and does so without distraction--
due to the steps I took after I snapped the original image.

I do this with every photo I publish.
Hope you enjoy them!

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